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MATCH REPORT

PUBLISHED
17:49 31st March 2012

WILBRAHAM STRIKE CAN'T SAVE CITY

CITY mounted a spirited fightback after going 2-0 down early in the game against Fulham at Craven Cottage, but despite a deflected Aaron Wilbraham goal in the second half sparking real hopes of a Canary revival, the Cottagers hung on for the win.

For all of City's possession in the early stages of the first half, it was Fulham who proved the more decisive racing into a 2-0 lead within 13 minutes to give the Canaries an uphill struggle for the rest of the afternoon.

Goals from Clint Dempsey and Damien Duff did the damage and although a better second-half performance and a deflected goal from Wilbraham gave City hope, the Canaries left Craven Cottage on the wrong end of a 2-1 defeat.

Commenting on the result, City boss Paul Lambert said: "I thought we deserved something especially in the second half, I thought we were relentless at times. But losing two goals at the beginning gives you an uphill battle, and that was the case but I thought the response to that was excellent.

"The good thing was that we never wilted, we kept on going and got the goal back. I'm delighted for Aaron Wilbraham as he's a top pro he gives you everything he's got and he's brilliant round the Football Club."

Paul Lambert made four changes from last weekend's 2-1 victory over Wolves at Carrow Road. Ryan Bennett came into the starting line-up to make his Canary debut and was joined by Kyle Naughton in City's defence.

With Grant Holt suspended Steve Morison led the line and Andrew Surman returned to midfield at the expense of Elliott Bennett.

Fulham had the best possible start when they were ahead within two minutes - the Canaries had begun passing it around nicely but Bryan Ruiz won the ball in midfield, cut inside and tried a curling low shot which Ruddy parried only to a lurking Clint Dempsey who hit home to give the Cottagers the lead.

City won a corner on six minutes with Ryan Bennett leaping high to meet David Fox's delivery but the debutant's header was too high to trouble Schwarzer. The Canaries were enjoying the lion's share of possession but without creating any clear-cut scoring opportunities.

And unfortunately the visitors were undone again on 13 minutes, this time Dempsey turning provider and placing a diagonal through-ball for Damien Duff to race on to and slot home into the far corner for 2-0.

Elliott Ward picked up the first yellow card of the game after 26 minutes, Anthony Taylor not liking the defender's challenge on Ruiz.

Fulham went close again on 33 minutes, Dempsey heading over Duff's right-wing cross.

City had a chance from a corner which fell to Ward after Fox's corner was knocked down by Bennett but he could only place his effort wide of the goal.

Fulham were forced into an early change Pogrebnyak replaced by Kacaniklic after 36 minutes after the Russian picked up a knock.

Jonny Howson had a great opportunity to pull one back for City a minute later, Surman finding the midfielder in space on the left but his shot flashed across goal and wide of the far post.

Zak Whitbread then had a shot from just outside the area, which was a comfortable claim for Schwarzer.

But it should have been three for Fulham with three minutes of the half to play - Dempsey hit the post and the rebound fell to Mousa Dembele whose shot deflected just wide for a corner to the relief of the Yellow Army behind the goal.}

In stoppage-time Surman flashed a shot just wide from distance.

Half-time
: Fulham 2, Norwich City 0

The Canaries made a change at half-time, Simeon Jackson replacing Zak Whitbread and forming up 4-4-2.

Three minutes into the half substitute Kacaniklic hit the bar with a dipping effort, which Ruddy might have got a fingertip on to deny the Swede.

On 53 minutes Schwarzer made a good save from Wes Hoolahan and then Surman was blocked from knocking in the rebound.

David Fox then found himself in the referee's notebook for a tackle on Dembele.

Hoolahan won a free-kick about 25 yards from goal two minutes before the hour, which Surman stepped up to take and it deflected off the wall for a corner, which Bennett headed wide of the upright.

Ryan Bennett made a great challenge to block Kacaniklic as he was about to pull the trigger one-on-one with Ruddy. The Swede went close again moments later this time his effort was deflected and Araon Hughes hitting over the bar from the corner.

The hosts were having a good spell of pressure and John Arne Riise forced Ruddy into a smart save after 67 minutes with a powerful drive from the left.

Paul Lambert made a further change up front Aaron Wilbraham replacing Morison to partner Simeon Jackson.

With 20 minutes to play Ruddy placed a great throw to release Hoolahan for an attack, he found Surman on the left but Fulham managed to clear their lines from his neat ball into the box.

On 71 minutes Danny Murphy was replaced by Mahamadou Diarra by Martin Jol.

With 15 minutes left on the clock Wilbraham was found in the area on his own and with his back to goal he turned to shoot but it was wide of the far post.

But the big striker did give the Canares hope just a minute later when Hoolahan found him on the edge of the box and he turned inside and his shot deflected off Hughes and into the back of the net to reduce the defecit.

With all to play for the visitors were piling on the pressure - a great ball over the top by Surman looked to find Howson who'd made a great run into the box but the former Leeds man just couldn't get a connection and Hangeland headed away.

With seven minutes left former Canary Dickson Etuhu came on for Ruiz for Fulham's final substitution. This was swiftly followed by City's final change Elliott Bennett coming on for David Fox.

Jackson was proving a problem for Fulham and a great ball from Hoolahan found the Canadian and he did well under pressure to win the Canaries another corner.

Four minutes of injury time were signalled and Wilbraham had another opportunity when Russell Martin's long ball was knocked down by Hughes to the Canary striker in the box but he flashed his shot wide.

Final score
: Fulham 2, Norwich City 1

FULHAM
: Schwarzer, Kelly, Arne Riise, Hangeland, Pogrebnyak (Kacaniklic 36), Ruiz (Etuhu 83), Murphy (c) (Diarra 71), Duff, Hughes, Dempsey, Dembele. Subs not used: Stockdale, Senderos, Diarra, Frei, Trotta.
CITY
: Ruddy, Martin, Morison (Wilbraham 68), Whitbread (Jackson 46), Surman, Hoolahan (c), Fox (E. Bennett 84), Ward, Howson, Naughton, R. Bennett. Subs not used: Steer, Drury, Johnson, Crofts.

    Data provided by Press Association

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